The Refugees in a Broken Mirror of Fear

Legal Definition of refugee: ‘an individual who has left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution (as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion)

Status of Refugees Convention, 1951

2016 was a record year in the number of refugees who were living or passing through Bulgaria for the past 25 years. In 2015 were registered 20 391 persons who had sought protection. Since the beginning of the war they are 33 269. The largest number belongs to Syrians, followed by Iraqis and Afghans. The number of men is double higher than women, the most prevalent age limit is 18-34. The children are a third of all refugees, 60% of them are without parents.

How the Refugees react to the condition to remain to live in Bulgaria?

80% of the refugees do not want to be registered in Bulgaria and prefer to pass throughout the country illegally. Many Western online journals call Bulgaria “the most horrifying route for migrants.”

Causes: Poor social and economic living conditions and opportunities for personal realization, xenophobia; lack of a mechanism for integration, language barrier;

In 2016 the largest camp in Bulgaria, Harmanli were quarantined because of fears of the local people that migrants are suffering from scabies, malaria and leishmaniasis.

As a result of these measures, thousands of refugees set fire to the camp and went into violent confrontation with police and gendarmerie.

Causes: Bulgaria has been repeatedly accused in many reports of human rights organizations in poor attitude towards refugees and hate speech in the media and strongly negative attitudes in the society.

How the society responds to the wave of refugees?

28 protests in Sofia, Samokov, Burgas, Harmanli, Kresna, Rousse, Varna with the participation of thousands of citizens organized by nationalist movements and representatives of local communities;

The protests are happening in:

1) areas populated by refugees (Lions bridge in Sofia center, well-known as Middle East District (13 000 refugees are living here);

2) near operating or under construction camps to refugees accommodation. In the political game, the theme of refugees bring extraordinary election result of the recent presidential election to the coalition “united patriots”, which initiated the construction of iron wall on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, which guarded European specialized parts, the Bulgarian army and international border police.

In the political game, the theme of refugees bring extraordinary election result of the recent presidential election to the coalition “united patriots”, which initiated the construction of iron wall on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, which guarded European specialized parts, the Bulgarian army and international border police.

Refugees are a key tool in the public debates before the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Hundreds of Bulgarian families have benefit from the refugee wave taking part in the channels of trafficking;

Many local leaders from border areas earn attention and respect in the local societies. They are using the mob law, caught them as “civil arres”. They are dozens patrols and the number of these units is over 800 involved people.

Causes: The public opinion on refugees in Bulgaria is that they are radical Islamists and terrorists, criminals, undercover soldiers and conquerors of Jihador just useless economic migrants without any qualification;

According to several surveys of leading online media, nearly 75% of people in Bulgaria believe that we should immediately close the borders and to introduce extra border controls.

How does the online media react about the refugee wave?

1.       The crimes of refugees;

2.       Measures to the authorities and the police about refugees;

3.       Revealed persons belonging to any terrorist organizations;

4.       The support of refugees, which calculations exceed five times the minimum wage in Bulgaria;

5.       Reporting of crimes and terrorist attacks in other countries of the EU;

6.       Danger of expansion and Islamisation of Europe.

Statistics: Positive vs Negative Articles

In the online media is not telling about the personal drama stories. We do not see another human point of view, there is no enter in depth into their problems and reality. The children without parents or minors are not an important topic.

The Refugees in online media are subject to some kind of distant monitoring and just daily sensation, provoking only resentment and hatred.

The trend of turning refugees into “monsters” is reinforced by individual incidents that are overexposed in the online media.

Finally, the fear and hate speech are the main leitmotifs in the online journalism in Bulgaria.

Undoubtedly, not all refugees are real, but it is wrong this people to be placed under a common denominator.

Many NGOs working on illumination of the reality of refugees, but it is not enough.

Also an absurd fact is that: Bulgaria is a country of millions of refugees from neighboring areas on the Balkans in the close history and now can not discern and distinguish the truth from fear.

Written by: Atanas Lozanov (Project Manager of Interactive & Media Programmes Lab – NGO in Sofia, Bulgaria)

Edited by: Ema Jakimovska

Source: Challenging Diversity